Always The Runner: s/t EP (Myla Records, 2004)

by Brent

Always the RunnerAlways the Runner is an intriguing band that plays mainly instrumental, cinematic rock that combines elements of dreampop and math rock….

Now, before you roll your eyes and say “Not another “instrumental” band”, please read on! Granted, the music world is chock full of uninteresting bands that play boring instrumental music, trying to pass their tedious offerings as off as “artistique”. But, don’t let that fact prevent you from experiencing sublime music that IS interesting. On their self-titled EP release, Always the Runner succeeds in rising above the glut of dull instrumental bands to create a collection of fresh, well-played songs that sound inspired and energetic.

Always the Runner begins with “A Falconer’s Prayer”, one of the two songs on the 6 song, 32 minute EP that features vocals. The male vocalist here, oddly enough perhaps, reminds me a tiny bit of Bono from U2, though Chad Favre vocals are noticeably more gruff than Bono’s. Perhaps it’s the passionate yet polished delivery of the vocals that cause me to make this comparison, but I will say that that Favre is not a direct or blatant imitation of the Irish singer. “A Falconer’s Prayer” is a good introduction to Always the Runner’s sound, with its angular guitar lines, droning keys, and crisp drumming. In their songwriting and musical elements, the band reminds one of a more energetic Early Day Miners, a more accessible Unwed Sailor, or perhaps a less aggressive Appleseed Cast. “Speaking of Palominos” follows, with effected guitar lines vaguely reminiscent of a cross between Early Day Miners and The Autumns in their In the Russet… era. The song is structured in a way that tells a story (albeit a vague, musical story), meaning that even without vocals, the song has direction and purpose. With buried keys again supporting the main guitar lines, “Speaking of Palominos” sounds full and well integrated. “Telling Lies Over Lattes” also combines elements of dreamy rock again, as it features gorgeous effected guitars washing over piano and the ever solid drumming of Favre (the technical and tasteful work of Favre on the drums is a shining feature of the band through the whole of Always the Runner). At about the 4 minute mark of “Telling Lies Over Lattes”, the song decrescendos to silence, only to erupt in a soaring rock explosion. Moments like these give the listener the impression that Always the Runner would be an excellent live band, and even on CD, their performance sounds inspired and energetic. “Let’s See If You Bastards Can Do 90!” showcases the band harder side, as they rock out in a more defined math-rock style. The song hits harder, and contrasts nicely with “Not What Jesus Would Have Done”, the EP’s soft, atmospheric closer that features wonderful and exotic sounds coating the buried vocals of Favre.

All in all, Always the Runner is a very promising first release from this young band. With excellent playing, good song writing, terse production, attractive artwork, and an well-designed website, Always the Runner proves itself as a band who is serious about their art. And good thing, too, because they have much to offer fans of pseudo-instrumental music. Definitely an EP worthy of a spin, and definitely a band to keep your eyes on for the future. Fans of Unwed Sailor, Appleseed Cast, Early Day Miners, The Autumns, or perhaps Ok Computer-era Radiohead would enjoy this disc.

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